What does IoT mean for asset-intensive industries? (Part 2)

In our second blog in the series we examine how organisations can prepare their workforce, and what the workforce may look like when IoT is implemented successfully.

With fewer STEM graduates choosing to pursue a career in engineering, the skills gap for asset-intensive industries has become increasingly concerning. With more than 50% of their current workforce due to retire in the next 10-15 years, it leaves many organisations wondering how they can plan for a future with a much smaller skilled workforce.

Many organisations are having to embrace the IoT as a concept, and planning for a more connected, digital future should go hand in hand with future proofing your business against the skills gap.

Future proofing against the workforce skills gap

In order to truly understand the changes required in this disruptive environment, you first need to understand the skill set you require for your changing business. With the rise in digital disruption and the ability to automate many manual processes, it becomes increasingly likely that the skills gap could be addressed much in the same way that the automotive industry has – through smarter machinery, and better monitoring of your assets. By making use of the IoT to report on your asset health, you can shift your organisation to a predictive maintenance model, meaning the skills your employees require could change. For example, the work your technicians carry out could become replacement tasks as opposed to asset repair, meaning the skills requirement may not be as onerous.

Is an enterprise asset management system the answer?

Implementing an all-encompassing enterprise asset management system which allows you to configure your alerts according to parameters you are comfortable with is the first step in your journey to a connected workplace. Once implemented, your system will have the ability to monitor and analyse faults and report on when and which maintenance tasks are required. Over time, the system will be able to use edge computing and associated algorithms to analyse deviations and detect early onset failure, and eventually, predict when they may occur.

Intelligent sensors could allow organisations to introduce monitoring systems that learn as they collect data, developing the ability to report any anomalies, or recognise when an asset is not performing in a way it should. In turn, the ability to analyse the data and understand what the system is telling you means you would require a different set of skills.

Utilising IoT to replace diagnostic skills

The highest level of skill in any environment is a diagnostic skill, which translates to finding the cause of the problem. If we can refine the diagnostic skill with IoT and AI, it means we can deskill the task to a simple replacement activity. If we standardise the replacement activities with method statements and clear instructions, we can deskill the task and therefore no longer require a taskforce of skilled labour to replace assets. Couple this with the ability to use VR headsets to guide a technician through a replacement activity, and you can deskill your maintenance tasks even further.

Ultimately you reduce the need for multiple engineers to monitor your equipment and increase the need for analysts to identify a work plan for one engineer. New skills should be assessed along with traditional skills in order to build a cross-functional team that can address all the challenges the business may face, allowing employees to be flexible with which area of the business they can provide support to.

Using IoT and AI to deskill the work order requirement from your employees means there is less dependence on an already stretched workforce, and enables you to make smarter, informed decisions.

Using IoT to support your company strategy

Several asset-intensive industries have adopted IoT technologies and are already reaping the benefits – but those that haven’t could risk being left behind, making them less efficient and therefore delivering lower profits.

IoT will only work in these industries if the data generated flows seamlessly between systems, and the organisation has the ability to analyse the data and produce meaningful insight. While IoT may not be able to produce a tangible cost saving initially, the metrics you could use to measure value and return could include major asset failures pre-IoT vs post-IoT, or total maintenance spend.

IoT doesn’t have the ability to create a company strategy or an effective working culture, but it can act as the catalyst to propel your organisation to adoption of new technologies faster. Having an engaged workforce which embrace your digital strategy could be instrumental in making the new technologies work to your benefit.